8th Year Anniversary Today of Opening First Car Wash and Learning the Value of Signage

Today is the 8th year anniversary of opening my first wash. Ironically, the wash was finally completed and open for business on Friday, August 13th, 2004. That’s right friday the 13th.

I remember how anti-climatic the actual opening was. I think we (I had partners at the time) did a final walk through with the general contractor that afternoon to a go over a punch list of final touches that he owed us. My ex-partners left, and a guy ¬†who was sweeping up loaded up his truck and left. It was around 3:00 in the afternoon and I thought to myself…what now? I do remember a couple of cars coming in to vacuum, but this had been going on for a few days already. Really, no one knew that we were finally opened after 8+ months of construction. It actually worried me. We needed an “OPEN” sign. So that evening, I went home where I had my vinyl cutter and a blank 4’x8′ banner and I cut out four large letters O P E N and mounted them to the banner. The next day I strapped the sign to above the two automatic bays and the cars started rolling in. I was always a big believer in signage and this was proof positive of how well it worked. We didn’t have our Grand Opening until about a month later because we thought it would be better to wait for a rainy weekend to have it (just kidding, but true!)

Night Time Photo Of Our Newly Built Car Wash With The “OPEN” Sign 8 year ago today.

Here is the chapter about the marketing value of signage from my book Car Wash Business 101

Chapter 31 – Signage

I am a big signage fan. My personal experience is that there is no better way to promote your wash than through signage. Signage will help a good location stand out from all the “noise” in a local shopping district and will also dramatically help a location that is hidden or lacking some other good attributes. I am also a big believer in programable LED signage. It is among the easiest and most effective promotion that I utilize. You will notice in my budget that the monthly lease cost for the financing of my LED signage takes up about 1/3 of my overall annual advertising budget. My LED signage is a one sided programmable full color approximately 4’x8′ sign that is placed in a way that all the traffic that heads west on the road in front of me sees my sign. I only used a one side sign because my location is just over the crest of a small hill and the visibility is only good for traffic heading west. My wash is also located directly across the street from a McDonald’s. I estimate that at least 700 cars go through the drive through at McDonald’s each day. My sign is positioned in a way that not only can the road traffic easily see the sign but all the McDonald’s drive through customer’s can see it as well. There other attributes to signage that gives it more value than many other forms of advertising including the following:

  1. It sells for you all day everyday. Most other forms are advertising are here today gone tomorrow.
  2. Your signage can help you in your branding efforts. Using consistent company colors, logos and other discernible attributes will help your customers identify with all of your other marketing efforts.
  3. Your signage will help you capitalize on impulse buyers.
  4. Your signage can help you stand out in a busy shopping district.
  5. Your signage helps potential customer’s identify with your offering.

6. Programable LED signage will help you with ongoing promotion of your various offerings as well as help you convey a tone of a quality offering.

Attributes of your signage

  1. Shape – Use non-standard shapes or designs when possible. The days of rectangular and square signs are long gone in my opinion. If you are restricted by budget or local sign ordinances make sure that the design of a traditional square or rectangular sign gives it some additional pizzaz. This could be done through professional artwork, colors, or other design attributes. Signs come in many sizes shapes and attributes. There are wood carved signs, backlit signs, LED signs, architectural signs, and mixes of all of the above.
  2. Size – Most municipalities will dictate how large of a sign you will be permitted to use. Most likely, they will have ordinances that say you can have a certain square footage sign, at a certain height, within a certain distance from the road. They will also most likely have ordinances for wall mounted signs and temporary signs. LED signage will also be spelled out in sign ordinances. I feel that your signage should be as large as local ordinances allow and your budget can handle. I feel that many new washes that I have seen recently built skimp on their sign budget. They have these beautiful new facilities but use small, antiquated signs. On both of the washes that I built I was able to wall mount large “splash” like droplets to the building with the lettering inside the droplet shaped fixture. This gave me a unique style and look. It also helped people identify with my offering and branding. Keep in mind the size of your signage will also determine what message you are able to put on your sign. Will it fit your logo, your tag line, or any other message you want to display? Keep this mind when considering your signage.
  3. Additional signage – Self serve car washes are notorious for sign pollution. Here is short list of signs that you will need at your location, security, services offered bay signs, menu signs for automatic bays, contact information signs for problems, equipment operation signs, enter/exit signs, road signs, wall mount signs. As you can see there is no shortage of signage required at a car wash. Your main goal in your

signage should be to brand your wash and to give it good marketing and operational appeal. While many of these signs are not marketing related, your primary road sign and wall mount sign should be carefully tied into your overall marketing mix.

4. LED signage – If allowed, I highly recommend programmable LED signage. It allows you to promote what you want, when you want. It also gives your business a more progressive look. Because of it’s permanence, it requires that you continue to come up with new and exciting messages for your current and prospective clients. I use my sign to promote holidays, services, gift certificates, clever sayings, even testimonials from satisfied customers. I use it for anything that I would like to tell my customers. Here are some examples of my LED signage messages, “We are a favorite place on Google”, “Go Steelers”, “Merry Christmas”, “Total Car Care Center, -Auto Bays, Self Serve Bays, Vacuums, Fragrance Machines, Shampooers, Vending”, $1.00 Off Customer Appreciation Day”, etc.. As you can see , it has an endless amount of ways to continue to promote various offerings.

Even after 8 years in the business, in some respects its as if we just opened yesterday!


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